Awful. That's the first word that comes to mind to describe this loss, that was by far the worst of the season. Against Illinois they fought hard but came up just short, and against Michigan State they ran into a buzz saw. Tonight, Northwestern lost because of a lack of effort and dumb mental errors. That's really all it comes down to. Giving up 15 offensive rebounds to a team that doesn't really crash the boards anyways, and was going with a very small lineup without Leuer, is downright inexcusable. And not only did the 'Cats get out-hustled to just about every loose ball, but when Wisconsin would get the offensive rebounds NU kept standing around instead of hustling back out to the perimeter to guard the Badgers' shooters. Just terrible. I do have to give Trevon Hughes a ton of credit for how he stepped up down the stretch, despite his annoying celebratory dance move. Hughes was held in check for much of the game, but he went on a personal 9-0 run in the last few minutes on three 3-pointers. That kid has a gigantic set of balls, he seriously might need a U-Haul to carry them around. Bo Ryan also has to get a ton of credit for how solid his team played, they were fantastic in the man to man and seemed to always make the right decision on offense, turning the ball over just four times the entire game.
This was a very tight game for the first 35 minutes, with neither team ever leading by more than 5, and the margin mostly closer than that. Both teams played strong half court defense, as there were very few easy baskets for either side. The difference was the aforementioned lack of rebounding, and free throw shooting. Wisconsin hit 13 of 17 (really 12 for 17, but Luka Mirkovic foolishly committed a lane violation that cost his team a point) from the line, and Northwestern was just 9 for 16, including a crucial missed front end by Michael Thompson with the 'Cats down four. Drew Crawford was also shaky at the line, hitting just 2 of 6. Both of those players are normally reliable at the line, just unfortunate that they both struggled at the same time.
On offense, Northwestern was led by 15 points from John Shurna. While he had a good game, I would like to see him touch the ball a lot more on the offensive end. I don't think he had one touch in the low post, where he could have been very effective. Jeremy Nash had a nice game with 13 points, and Crawford added 10. Thompson had another bad game on offense, with just 4 points on 2 of 8 shooting.
Carmody went to his bench less than he has all season, as the starters played all but 12 minutes. Alex Marcotullio and Kyle Rowley both got 6 minutes; Marcotullio did nothing except committ 2 fouls, and Rowley was fine on the defensive end with 2 rebounds and a blocked shot, but managed to get called for two moving screens in 6 minutes. How the hell are you a sophomore in college and not know that you have to be stationary when setting a screen? Seriously, it is unfathomable.
Northwestern had an excellent chance to get a marquee win tonight, and they didn't take advantage. What makes it even worse is that the loss was mostly their own doing. The 'Cats are coming dangerously close to falling to fraud team status along with the likes of Michigan. It's one thing to get outplayed by a better team, it's quite another to get outhustled by a team that just wanted it more. The schedule gets much tougher Saturday, as Northwestern hosts #6 Purdue. It's going to take an effort vastly superior to tonight's for the 'Cats to have a chance.